One of the nicest new developments in Beirut in the last few years is Zaitunay Bay, the marina area of Solidere that has replaced the old Normandy garbage landfill used during the civil war. Many tourists and locals are visiting this Marina for the many great restaurants and hang outs that have opened there.
While visiting the marina, tourists and locals can see a big stop sign with STOP SOLIDERE written on the once regal Saint George Hotel building and it is often asked what is this about by those visiting from abroad.
The sign is related to a very large and ongoing battle between the former, deceased prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri and the owner of the Hotel Fadi El Khoury which dates back to the formation of the Real Estate Company charged with rebuilding the down town of Beirut, Solidere.
As with every disagreement of this scale what is at stake here is money, specifically property value and rights. El Khoury’s claim is that Solidere is illegal and the land that was repatriated by them to build the Marina now facing his hotel belongs to him. In fact prior to the war the view from the Saint George Hotel was of the sea with a small strip of beach.
With the breakdown of public services during the civil war the bay was turned into a garbage dump for all the trash of Beirut and part of Solidere’s tasks was to treat the toxic garbage and reclaim that land, part of which has been converted into what is now Zaitunay Bay.
The formation of Solidere was in fact a colossal achievement and how it was approved by the Lebanese legislature despite all the landowners effectively losing their properties in the down town, would require serious investigation. Mr. El Khoury will claim such an investigation would reveal a considerable amount of bribing and profiteering by Lebanese government and judicial officials and as such he believes that Solidere is illegal.
Whatever the case may be, it is believed by many Lebanese that the benefits of the Solidere plan far outnumber the harm caused to a few property owners who were not compensated enough by the land that Solidere seized from them.
For now it seems that Mr. El Khoury wants to continue his battle against Solidere, despite the death of his arch rival, and it is alleged that he is still working to break up the now Multinational company that took siege of ‘his’ bay. So for an undefined time we will have to live with the theatrics of this enormous Stop sign overlooking a major tourist attraction of Beirut and like so many tarnished landmarks of the city … simply learn to ignore.